Know What You Want. Three Tips for Writing Compelling Content

Business communication is about developing content that drives specific behaviors in specific people. The goal isn’t simply to entertain, it’s to compel.

At the end of the day, content is all about getting people to do things: buy products, work safely, pay higher prices, adopt a change, stay employed and engaged, etc.

Unfortunately, it’s easy for communication professionals—and business professionals of all types—to forget that simple fact. After all, there’s a lot going on, we’re all super busy and sometimes getting a piece of content written and distributed can become the goal unto itself.

Writing content that doesn’t accomplish anything is a waste of time and energy.

Next time you need to write a piece of content for any platform, take these three tips into account.

Know the short- and long-term goals of the content

Like a great episode of Westworld or an installment of a serialized novel, each piece of content in your strategy should have both a short-term and long-term goal. If you know what you’re trying to accomplish, the content will be more compelling.

The long-term goal is usually obvious. The collective efforts of all content focused on a topic should compel an audience to do something specific (e.g., improve quality, buy a different brand, pass a law, etc.).

Each discrete piece of content in your strategy should have a discrete objective, while also moving the ball down the field toward your long-term goal.

For example, a social post detailing a product feature for a new brand might not compel a customer to switch to the brand immediately. However, it should explain clearly the product feature (short-term goal), while adding to the aggregate case for why the customer should switch (long-term goal).

Fight for focus

We all know that content needs to be tailored to a specific audience. You need to know who’s going to be reading the material and what you need from them specifically. Then, you can customize the content for best effect.

As any business communicator can attest, that’s often easier said than done.

Most communicators begin a content-generation project with the best of intentions. They ask all the right questions, and they get to know the audience before they write a single word.

But then things get murky. As the writing progresses—and as more eyes get a look at the content—the scope of the initiative creeps wider. A colleague wants to use the piece for employees as well as customers. An executive thinks it would be great if the piece spoke to ownership in addition. And Legal wants it to hold up in court should that unlikely scenario arise.

Pretty soon, you have a jumbled mess that addresses multiple audiences with multiple messages and accomplishes absolutely nothing.

Be sure to stay true to the audience, and when scope creep starts to happen, push back (respectfully). It’s better to repurpose the content for different audiences than to try to be all things to all people in a single piece.

To get what you want, sweat the grammar

Some copy writers and communication professionals will tell you that grammar doesn’t really matter. What matters, they say, is the message.

Well, yes, the message is the most important aspect of communication. That’s incontrovertible.

But, the notion that grammar isn’t important is simply hogwash. Clear writing is essential to convey a message.

Grammar rules exist for a reason. They help ensure that written communication is clear and unambiguous. If your sentence structure is poor, your vocabulary is weak or your punctuation is inconsistent, then a reader could potentially misconstrue the message.

Word choice, syntax and structure matter. You can have the most compelling message in the world, but if a reader doesn’t know what the hell you’re saying because your writing is confused, the message will go unheeded.

To recap: If you want your content to deliver results, know what you want (short- and long-term goals), who you want it from (specific audience), and how to get it (clear, accurate grammar).

Check out some examples of how Lean Out Communications has delivered compelling, accurate content across multiple platforms for clients in numerous industries.

Lean Out Communications is a trusted management consulting firm that empowers organizations to navigate change and grow sustainably. We use a proven collaborative process to help you engage your key stakeholders with practical, repeatable and scalable solutions, tailored to your needs, so you can meet your unique objectives.

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Gene Nichols

Gene Nichols, MBA, managing partner, has more than two decades of global experience helping organizations navigate successful change, manage their reputations and drive sustainable competitive advantage.

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